We love apples around here! I pick all of the apples off of our one tree and knock on neighbours doors to pick theirs. In the fall you can find me canning up a storm barefoot in the kitchen.
My grandmother shared with me when they moved her family from the prairies she was astounded by how abundant Vancouver Island is with fruit, and how much was left on the ground to rot.
There are over 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States. 7,500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the world and yet only about 100 varieties grown commercially.
For my thirtieth birthday we visited Salt Spring Island Apple Company, and I learned more about apples than I ever had before.
Salt Spring Island Apple Company ships apple trees within Canada, they have an amazing wealth of knowledge when it comes to apples.
I also highly suggest Nature Hills Nursery, America's Online Garden Center for all things gardening including over 27 varieties of apple trees.
I was totally inspired by their dedication to collecting heirloom apple tree varieties and taken away by the knowledge they had about each apple varieties history and success in our climate.
Today I want to share with you the top heirloom apple trees that are the best for Vancouver Island.
BEST APPLE TREES VARIETIES FOR Vancouver Island
Apples are a healthy staple to any diet. High in fibre and vitamins and minerals, there's a reason why an apple a day will keep the doctor away.
Apples are also one of my favourite fruits to preserve. I grew up and am raising my children on apples as a staple ingredient in snacks, baking, desserts, preserves and more.
I asked for the top 10 trees they'd recommend for beginner planters that do well on the Westcoast of Vancouver Island, Zone 8 and offer a variety of opportunities for canning, cider, juicing, winter storage and more.
So I'm writing this post to share with you what I learned, and can't wait to see what my 20 trees offer in the future. ( Yup, I got 2 of each!)
10 BEST APPLE TREE VARIETIES FOR WESTERN CLIMATES
AIRLIE RED FLESH
The Airlie Red Flesh comes from Oregon and is a beautiful yellow apple with a rosed red fleshed inside. This apple is a best for fresh eating and also does well when made into cider.
HARVEST TIME: Very late season apple, usually ready late October
STORAGE: Store these apples in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 months for fresh eating
BELLE DE BOSKOOP
These apples were brought to the island from the Netherlands and a lot are found in the Cowichan Valley. My mother in law speaks of having this tree on her homestead as a girl and her father kept them in the cellar where they stayed fresh for eating all winter long. It's actually said to taste better once it's been stored for awhile.
These apples are excellent for fresh eating, cooking and making cider!
HARVEST TIME: Late season apples, usually ready for harvest around mid to late October
STORAGE: Like I said these apples are excellent for keeping. They will keep up to 6 months when refrigerated.
If you love purple as much as I do, then the Florina will be your favourite apple variety. It's a pretty medium to large size and has a purple red skin.
HARVEST TIME: Late Season, these apples are usually ready to harvest in late October
STORAGE: These apples are mostly used for fresh eating and should be kept in the refrigerator for about three months of so.
This is a popular apple variety as Freedom apple trees are highly productive and disease resistant.
HARVEST TIME: These apples like the rest above are ready for harvest late season, in mid October.
STORAGE: Freedom apples are great for preserving, fresh eating and making wine or cider. Store in the fridge for three months.
Gravenstein apples, especially red Gravensteins are one of my favourites. These are the apples I grew up on from my parents and Nana's property. Gravensteins are absolutely lovely in desserts. Red Gravensteins make the most beautiful sparkling apple jelly you've ever seen!
HARVEST TIME: Gravensteins are early season apples, they are usually ready for harvest in early September.
STORAGE: These apples only last 1 or so months in the fridge so they are best preserved for apple pies, jellies, crisps and sauces.
This apple is a cross between the Golden Delicious and the tart Jonathan apple. It's a beautiful, crisp and juicy apple.
HARVEST TIME: The Jonagold is harvested in mid October as it's a late season apple.
STORAGE: These apples are mostly eaten fresh and store well for 3-4 months.
This apple is a fun one to grow as it looks different than most apples. Tall and slender this is the Barbie of all apple varieties.
HARVEST TIME: Another late season apple usually in mid October.
STORAGE: A great apple for showing off, using for decor and eating fresh.
KING OF TOMPKINS CO.
The King of Tompkins Co. is known as a the king of all heritage apples. This is the number one tree in my books for the west coast climate. It's a productive with large delicious apples perfect for all your needs.
HARVEST TIME: Late season apples ready for harvest in mid-October.
STORAGE: Nothing beats these apples for fresh eating but it's also perfect for cooking and making cider! These apples only last a few months in the fridge, so do your best to eat them and preserve them!
The sweet sixteen is a hardy, vigorous, early bearing apple tree that is disease resistant. It has a unique flavour, is firm and crisp and smells delicious when baked. Sweet sixteen is a large apple with red skin stripped over a green background.
HARVEST TIME: A mid season variety, usually ready for harvest in late September.
STORAGE: Make pies and everything else you can think of with this apple. It has a unique vanilla like flavour when cooked and smells delicious. This apple won't last long in the fridge. At least until your late harvest trees are ready to be picked.
The suntan apple tree is a not as easy to grow as it's susceptible to mildew in dry regions and canker when grown in damp regions, but its worth the effort. It's a sweet and rich flavoured apple with a pineapple like acidity.
HARVEST TIME: Another late season apple tree, ready for harvest in late October.
STORAGE: This apple variety is best for eating fresh and stays well in the fridge for up to 4 months.
Winter Banana is a fun tree to plant because of it's name but it's also highly useful in your backyard orchard. Its a classic apple. Winter Banana apple trees start producing fruit your and produce lots of large apples every year. These apples keep well and it produces lots of pollen to ensure a good haul on other fruit trees.
HARVEST TIME: Late Season apples ready to harvest in late October.
STORAGE: These apples will store up to four months when refrigerated.